Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.
What? No, North Dakota. What happened?
Colorado College happened. The Tigers upended UND 4-3 in overtime, spoiling the expected matchup of UND and the Gophers in Friday's 7 p.m. semifinal.
The Tigers won the special teams battle -- and thus, the game. Sophomore defenseman Peter Stoykewych, of Winnipeg, got the game-winner about five minutes into overtime. It was his second goal of the season.
Senior Rylan Schwartz had a power-play goal and Alexander Krushelnyski a shorty for CC, which is now almost .500 at 17-18-5 and needs to win the Final Five to make the NCAA tournament. The Tigers have reached the title game three times but not won.
CC's penalty-killer held the team formerly known as the Fighting Sioux to 0-for-6 on the power play. And goalie Joe Howe of Plymouth did the rest, stopping 29 of 32 shots.
The Colorado Springs Gazette story is here.
The game drew 17,038 -- many if not most wearing UND green.
CC was the eighth seed for the first round of the WCHA playoffs but upset Denver two games to one. For the Final Five, when teams were re-seeded, CC was the sixth seed among six teams.
But St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said one unexpected team always seems to arise in the postseason and his pick this year was CC because of the Tigers' scoring ability.
CLOSE SERIES IN CC
The Gophers took three of four available points when they played the Tigers in Colorado Springs on Dec. 7-8. They won the first game 4-2. Tom Serratore's goal in the third period broke a 2-2 tie. Zach Budish added an empty-netter, so it was really a one-goal game.
The second night, the Gophers took a 4-1 lead into the third period but had to settle for a tie. Krushelnyski scored a shorthanded goal at 4:04 and then scored again two minutes later to make it 4-3.
Then senior Rylan Schwartz, with goalie Josh Thorimbert pulled for an extra attacker, tied the score with 24 seconds left.
The Gophers had a slight advantage in shots both nights, 31-22 and 29-27.
"We played Josh Thorimbert pretty much all the time at the beginnng of the seaosn," Owens said in a pre-tournament teleconference. "He was a returning all-WCHA. Then Joe started taking over. He really complete, he really battles, he give us a complete 60 minutes with a minimum of soft goals ... And our penalty kill has been better of late.
"Joe sees tge puck well and has ton of confidence. He has been the backstop of the team the last two months."
* Owens said CC's two unsung heroes have been senior forward William Rapuzzi, the team captain, and defenseman Eamonn McDermott.
"[Rapuzzi] is a warrior and great leader, he does lot of things well ... Eamonn McDermott -- he's a guy who is the glue back there for the blue line. He plays lot of quality minutes, and has played very well for us."
Rapuzzi, of Anchorage, Alaska, is third on CC in points with 15 goals and 20 assists for 35 points. McDermott had 19 assists and 22 points.
* Owens was a CC assistant coach from 1991-95. And when Gophers coach Don Lucia took over the program there in the 1993-94, he made Owens his associate head coach for two seasons before Owens left.
So the two are friends.
Owens returned to CC as head coach in 1999-2000 and he has been there since.
LUCIA: CC SIMILAR TO US
Lucia said the Tigers are similar to the Gophers because they like to get up and down the ice quickly.
He said it is a great opportunity for the Gophers to get a chance to play in the Final Five with the great atmosphere there. "Next weekend teams will play in front of 3[,000] or 4000 people in some cases" at the regionals, Lucia said.
No matter what happens in the Final Five, the Gophers will be the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA tournament and probably be assigned to the West Regional in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Denver had a 2-0 lead, but Colorado College rallied to beat the Pioneers 4-3 Sunday night in deciding Game 3 of their best-of-three opening round WCHA playoff series at Magness Arena.
Sophomore right wing Charlie Taft, of Edina, scored the winning goal in the middle of the third period.
The Tigers will face North Dakota at 7 p.m. Thursday in the second Final Five quarterfinal at the X.
Denver had played in the past five Final Fives. Now the Pioneers have to wait to see they earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The 16-team NCAA field will be announced on Sunday at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.
The winners of the five conference tournaments receive automatic spots. Eleven teams receive at-large bids, which the PairWise ratings predict with near certainty.
Junior Nick Shore gave the Pioneers (20-13-5) lead on a power-play goal at 12:34 of the first period. A centering pass deflected to Shore in the slot and he buried a slap shot in the upper left corner.
Daniel Doremus made it 2-0 DU just 1:20 on a rebound.
CC began its comeback on Cody Bradley's shot from point-blank range at 3:51 of the second period.
Three minutes later, Bradley rushed up the right side and found Hunter Fejes for a one-timer that he put away for his seventh goal of the season to tie the score at 2-2.
Two minutes after that, the Tigers took a 3-2 lead on Ryan Schwartz's short-handed goal at 8:56 of the second. Schwartz took the puck away from Nick Shore along the wall at the Pioneers’ blueline and raced the length of the rink, beating Pioneers goalie Juho Olkinuora high to his stick side.
That's three goals in 5:05.
Junior defenseman David Makowski tied the game at 3-all early in the third when Nick Shore found him in the slot right off a draw.
Taft broke the tie at 9:49 of the third. He shot from the right circle, trying to put the puck in the corner. Instead, Olkinuora played the puck in mid-air and it deflected off his stick into the net.
Olkinuora made 22 saves. senior Joe Howe 37 for CC (16-18-5).
Howe, of Plymouth, played high school hockey at Wayzata. He made a big toe save on Nick Shore when he had a shorthanded breakaway.
"That's the difference in the series right there," DU coach George Gwozdecky said of Howe's save on Shore in a Denver Post story. "If we're up 3-0 at that point, game over, series over, I think. Howe makes an incredible save and they get right back in the game."
The Pioneers outshot the Tigers 40-26.
The Colorado Springs Gazette game story is here.
The Denver Post story is here.
Denver outshot Colorado College 42-22, but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers edged the Pioneers 2-1 on Saturday night in the second game of a best-of-three WCHA playoff series at Magness Arena.
Game 3 is 8:07 p.m. Sunday night. CC (15-18-5) is the eighth seed, DU (20-12-5) the fifth, but that doesn't matter in a matchup of archrivals.
Saturday's loss for the Pioneers was only their second at home in the past 10 games.
The Tigers scored first midway through the opening period. Charlie Taft, of Edina, picked up a loose puck in the Pioneers' zone and found teammate Rylan Schwartz with a cross for a one-timer which beat Denver goalie Sam Brittain low on his glove side.
Du freshman Quentin Shore streaked up the left side and beat Tigers’ goalie Joe Howe, of Plymouth, with a wrist shot on his glove side 33 seconds into the second period.
CC took the lead at 5:58 of the middle period after a Pios' turnover deep in their zone. Andrew Hamburg found junior forward Archie Skalbeck a foot in front of the crease for a quick tap in. Skalbeck, of Hopkins, had 12 goals this season, including a team-high four game-winners.
Brittain had 20 saves, Howe 41 to improve his career record to 51-49-10.
"We did everything but score," DU coach George Gwozdecky was quoted as saying. That's kinda important in hockey.
The game will be on PioneerVision and Denver's 102.3 FM ESPN Radio.
The Denver Post story is here.
The Colorado Springs Gazette story is here.
Notes: DU is 11-7 all-time in playoff games against the Tigers. .... Howe has 3,068 career saves, third most in CC history. ... Headline on CC web side: And Howe! CC forces Game 3. ... Howe played high school hockey at Wayzata.
Recruiting news keeps coming in. Minnesota State signs four, Bemidji State five ... and now Colorado College has announced six signings.
The Gophers? Nothing from the Mariucci office at Oak and 4th St., although who they were pursuing and had commitments from is widely known.
Back to CC. The newest list of Tigers-to-be is made up of four forwards and two defensemen.
Two of the forwards are Daniel Labosky of Edina and Sam Rothstein of Minnetonka. The 5-7, 150 Labonsky plays for Benilde-St. Margaret's. Rothstein, 5-9, 165, plays for Sioux Falls of the UHSL.
Others who signed during the early week-long signing period which began Wednesday are forwards Zach Aman of Johnstown, Pa., and Alex Roos of Prairie Grove, Ill., and and defensemen Garrett Cecere of West Des Moines, Ia. and Gustav Olofsson of Broomfield, Co.
Five of the six play in the USHL. Several will join April signees Christian Heil, Matt Hansen and Jaccob Slavin as freshmen next fall when CC makes its debut as a founding member of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The others will join the Tigers for the 2014-15 season.
“We as a staff are very pleased with the talent and character of the players that recently signed to
become future Tigers,” coach Scott Owens said, according to a CC news release. “It’s an excellent mix of speed, skill and size, and all the players are currently contributing to their respective teams in a significant way."
Hansen, one of the early signees, is also a Minnesotan. He is from St. Cloud and is playing for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs of the British Columbia Hockey League.
The biggest recruit is Olofsson, 6-2, 189 and playing for Green Bay of the USHL.
Zach Aman F 5-11 186 L 3/1/94 Johnstown, Pa./Indiana Ice (USHL)
Garrett Cecere D 5-10 160 L 1/5/95 West Des Moines, Iowa/Tri-City Storm (USHL)
Christian Heil F 6-1 178 L 3/25/94 Westminster, Colo./Chicago Steel (USHL)
Matt Hansen F 5-10 163 R 5/11/93 St. Cloud, Minn./Alberni Valley Bulldogs (BCHL)
Daniel Labosky F 5-7 150 L 5/24/95 Edina, Minn./Benilde-St. Margaret H.S. (Minn.)
Gustav Olofsson D 6-2 189 L 12/1/94 Broomfield, Colo./Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
Alex Roos F 5-10 170 R 12/5/94 Prairie Grove, Ill./Chicago Steele (USHL)
Sam Rothstein F 5-9 165 L 8/31/93 Minnetonka, Minn./Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
Jaccob Slavin D 6-2 180 L 5/1/94 Erie, Colo./Chicago Steel (USHL)
Before the Gophers-Colorado College series last weekend, Gophers coach Don Lucia said the penalty kill had to get better. It did. The Tigers, who came in with the WCHA's best power play, were zero-for-eight with the man-advantage.
But that doesn't come close to telling how dominant the Gophers' penalty killers were. CC had 14 minutes, 22 seconds with a man advantage on its eight power plays and had only five shots on goal while the Gophers had three and a goal.
Two of the Gophers' top penalty-killers are third line teammates Nate Condon and Taylor Matson. Condon has four short-handed goal and had two breakaways on special teams against CC. He was not successful Friday, but scored Saturday. He has four short-handed goals, which ranks second nationally.
"They are both extremely fast and they can ... get going in a hurry," Lucia said, referring to what they do on turnovers. "You saw that in North Dakota where Taylor just tapped it up to Nate. He had the breakaway. Nate had a breakaway on Friday night short-handed, too, and the puck just rolled on him when he was about to shoot. Saturday night he was able to make the play."
Condon scored his fourth short-handed goal the second night. Onlly one player with five has more. Matson has one short-handed goal.
"We've got some pretty good tandems on our penalty kill right now," Lucia said. "We use Condon and Matson, they are probably are A-plus penalty killers. We like to use [Jake} Hansen and [Erik] Haula. We like to use [Nick] Bjugstad and [Kyle] Rau. And we like [Tom] Serratore and [Trevor] Boyd. So we have two guys on all four lines.
"I try not to use as much as I can, Haula and Hansen and Rau and Bjugstad on every penalty kill," Lucia said. "I'd like to be able to come back with one of their lines after the penalty is over."
The Gophers have the 17th best penalty kill nationally, at 84.4 percent. But is is the best in the WCHA, just ahead of Bemidji State at 84.0.
"In many ways, we are mirror images the way we play the game," Lucia said, comparing the Gophers and CC. "The games are usually up-tempo, they are highly entertaining. There were some very good players on the ice last weekend.
"I thought it was pretty well played both nights. Exciting."
Lucia said he was disappointed the Gophers let a tie turned into a defeat on Friday. "A three-point weekend would have been great," he said, "but we were able to keep them four points behind us.
"Kent [goalie Kent Patterson] the last couple weeks has really looked sharp. And we need that. The good thing for us is, we are still in pretty good shape. We obviously have to win some WCHA games here down the stretch to maintain our positioning and try to get the best seed we can come playoff time."
Lucia said he also liked the way his defensemen played this past weekend. "We didn't give up double digit shots in any of the six periods against CC who averges 30-some shots a game," he said. "That was a real positive for us as well."
The Gophers fourth nationally and first in the WCHA in scoring defense; opponents average 2.07 goals per game against them.
THE DON SAYS
* On late goal last Friday: "That's like losing in overtime, basically. In some ways, you would rather lose a game by three than lose it that way because it is not so emotionally draining."
* On splits last two weeks with North Dakota and Colorado College: "I liked the way we played. The hard part for us is, we just didn't score enough. We lost to North Dakota 2-1, we lost to CC 2-1. We just need some guys to start rolling a bit offensively."
FIVE AND FIVE
The Gophers have only 10 conference games left, five at home, five away. This weekend they have a home and home series with St. Cloud State and have tough road series at Denver and Nebraska Omaha. They have home series left with Bemidji State and Wisconsin.
"We have put ourselves in pretty good shape as far as home ice, but you still have to continue to win," Lucia said.
The Gophers are in first place in the WCHA, two ahead of UMD. The top six teams get home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
* The three top power play teams in the WCHA are Denver at 23.6, CC at 23.1 and the Gophers at 22.6. They are bunched at Nos. 8, 9 and 10 nationally.
* Four of the top six scoring teams are in the WCHA: 1. UMD, 3.96 GAA; 2. Gophers, 3.81, 5. Denver, 3.54 and CC, 3.50.
* Sophomore center Nick Bjugstad is second in goals nationally with 20, tied for ninth in points with 32. ... Linemate Kyle Rau is second in points among freshmen with 25 and in goals with 13. He is tied for fifth in game-winners with five.
* Defenseman Nate Schmidt is tied for fifth in assists with 24 and is second in points among defensemen with 26.
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